It Happened Here First

You probably already know about the most famous of Israeli “firsts”. Such as Intel’s microchip breakthroughs, SMS technology, the digestible camera and cherry tomatoes.  But every week there is news of exciting discoveries and innovations from the Jewish State. Last week, there was even more than usual.

Dr. Itai Amir of Israel’s Maayanei Hayeshua hospital discovered a new strain of bacteria when examining a patient’s blood culture. The microorganism – named Eisenbergiella Tayi - assists in digestion and has attracted major scientific interest.  And in another discovery, Hebrew University of Jerusalem researchers have identified the cause of the dreadful intestinal inflammation side effects of chemotherapy.  The scientists isolated the protein Interleukin-1 (IL-1 beta), and are confident that its effects can be blocked.

Three “first of their kind” Israeli medical devices were in the news recently.  Israel’s BioControl Medical has developed the first device to treat chronic heart failure using neuro-stimulation.  It works by stimulating the vagus nerve on the right side of the neck. Trials are currently being conducted at 80 medical centers in the US, Europe and Israel.  Next, CerOx from Israel’s Ornim is the first and only non-invasive device on the market monitoring blood flow to the brain in patients with severe brain trauma.  It uses ultrasound and near-infrared light to measure oxygen saturation and prevent brain damage.  But pride of place goes to Israel’s Brainsway, which has launched a new era in the treatment of brain disorders such as Parkinson’s and Schizophrenia. Brainsway’s Deep Brain Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (TMS) has also received CE approval to treat depression and its systems have just been installed at Stockholm's Karolinska University Hospital.  Sweden has one of the highest rates of depression in the world.

Israel is always the first to respond to international humanitarian disasters such as in Haiti and the Philippines.  But it has also become the first State that countries call on to request all sorts of assistance.  For example, a team of Israeli scientists has just gone to Bhubaneswar in India, to test a pilot program called “phyto-remediation” that uses plants to remove pollutants from contaminated wetlands.  In another venture, Israel and Germany are launching “The Africa initiative" - a joint project for humanitarian relief in those developing countries.  And the Greek charity Bouroume has made its first visit to Israel to see how Leket Israel organizes 50,000 volunteers to pick, rescue and distribute fresh produce to the needy.  No wonder 170 countries nominated Israeli Ambassador to the UN, Ron Prosor, for his first role since Israel joined a UN Human Rights group.  Ambassador Prosor was chosen to run the elections for the UN Human Rights Committee!

When Israeli cleantech company Energy Industries is called on to implement environmentally friendly energy solutions for its customers it always looks first for local natural resources.  So in Ghana it extracts methane from a local landfill site, and in Georgia, hot springs are used to power greenhouses.  Over in California, the 392-megawatt concentrating solar power (CSP) plant built by Israel’s BrightSource Energy has commenced operations.  The five-square-mile Ivanpah solar energy generating system in the Mojave Desert is generating nearly 30 percent of all of the US’s solar power.  It has even inspired a pop music album – and that must be a first for a solar power station.

Three new Israeli innovations provide “first-contact” alternatives for computer users.  You can use the gesture technology from Pointgrab and become one of the first to operate your Lenovo computer from up to two meters away, even in low light conditions.  Or obtain a first-class degree by using the N-trig active pen to write over electronic lecture notes on your Intel Educational Tablet. But first prize must go to the UpSense Super Keyboards from Israel’s Inpris.  They are the first-ever invisible keyboards to enable fast typing by either blind or fully sighted users.  You can even help finance their launch and be the first to receive one.

Before you answer any accusation that Israel always puts its Jewish citizens first, first read my weekly newsletter.  Every week it contains news stories about Israel’s minorities, such as the Israel Education Ministry’s national program to encourage Arab children to read at home.  Maktabat al-Fanoos (“Lantern Library”) will deliver 4 first-stage books free to over 45,000 children at 1,750 pre-school kindergartens in Arab communities.  Over the border, Jordan is the first foreign country to purchase supplies of Israel’s new natural gas deposits.  And one year after Israel first started treating Syrians wounded in their civil war, Israeli doctors at Rambam Medical Center discharged a six-year-old Syrian boy who had first arrived six weeks earlier in a coma. His father was overjoyed, as his son was the last surviving member of his family.

Not for the first time, I’ll finish with an animal story.  Achziv is the first ever beach on Israel’s Northern Mediterranean coast to be declared an internationally recognized protected dolphin habitat.  Achziv offers deep waters for the dolphins to feed in.  I suspect, however, that these intelligent creatures are not the first to recognize that the Jewish State is a safe haven from troubled waters.

Please spread the word about Israeli innovation.

And remember - you read it here first!

Michael Ordman writes a free weekly newsletter containing positive news stories about Israel.
For a free subscription, email a request to